Archive for August 16th, 2011
For serious Baseball fans, the movie Bull Durham is a kind of Fan’s Guide to the Game. Consider an early scene, where the manager and coach of a Carolina League team are explaining to an experienced player why he is back in the Carolina League:
SKIP: ‘Cause of Ebby Calvin LaLoosh. (beat) The Big Club’s got a hundred grand in him-
LARRY He’s got a million dollar arm and a five cent head.
SKIP –we had the gun on him tonight– the last five pitches he threw were faster than the first five. 96 miles an hour, 98, 97, 97. 97. (beat) He’s got the best young arm I’ve seen in 30 years.
LARRY But he ain’t quite sure which plane he’s on, y’know what I mean…
The Cubs have a player named Carlos Zambrano. He might be the very model for Nuke LaLoosh. Except that Zambrano has ten years in the majors. He’s thirty years old. He just acts like he is a teenager. Consider the following chronology:
June 2007: Dugout fight with catcher Michael Barrett spills over into clubhouse. Barrett ends up in the hospital. Ends in lovefest, before Barrett gets traded.
May 2009: After ejection, Zambrano impersonates umpire by giving him the thumb, then hurls a ball toward left field, attacks Gatorade cooler with a bat. Suspended six games and fined $3,000.
September 2009: Rips Cubs fans for booing him after an erratic outing. Zambrano: “I thought these were the greatest fans in baseball. But they showed me today that they just care about them, and that’s not fair.”
September 2009: Insists 2010 will be different: “Like Arnold Schwarzenegger said, ‘I’ll be back.’ Believe it. All new episodes — next year.”
March 2010: Guarantees in a Chicago Tribune interview that he has changed. Zambrano: “For real. I am almost sure — 99.9 percent. When you’re sure of something, you go ahead and do it — and execute it. Seriously.”
February 2011: Announces in spring training ”I’m cured” because of anger management counseling.
August 2011: Serves up five home runs in 10-4 loss to the Braves, ejected for throwing at Chipper Jones, cleans out locker and announces his “retirement.” Cubs subsequently place Zambrano on 30-day disqualified list, without pay. Zambrano is expected to appeal.
Zambrano’s problems aren’t as much anger management – although as the chronology demonstrates, he has anger management issues – as emotions management. A call from the umpire that doesn’t go his way and he loses control of his emotions, his pitches and his play. It’s an ugly sequence. Cubs’ fans have seen it dozens of times. While Zambrano is capable of amazing stuff, including a no-hitter against the Astros three years ago, it’s rare for him to be able to channel his emotions through an entire game, let alone an entire season.
On August 12, Zambrano ‘s pitching was really bad, and baseball fans were “treated” to another spectacle of an adult having a teenager temper tantrum. Except this time, after being ejected, Zambrano cleaned out his locker and left the stadium, telling everyone he was “retiring.”
That might be acceptable in politics – “You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore” – but in baseball you don’t walk out on your teammates and your team. Zambrano is done as a Cub. The only question is what Zambrano does with himself. The Cubs are through with him and, based on media reports, so are his teammates.
Good riddance. There are some good memories, Carlos, but mostly the memories are of deep frustration with a player who has immense talent and no discipline. Like Milton Bradley, but less surly.